Duke basketball is losing its first freshman to this year’s NBA Draft

While injuries and illness kept Dariq Whitehead from playing to his full potential in a Duke uniform, he’s confident in his ability to play at basketball’s highest level.

After playing 28 games for the Blue Devils this season, the 6-7 Whitehead ended his college career on Wednesday and is declaring for the NBA Draft.

“I’m really looking forward to this next step in my basketball career and I’m truly blessed to have this opportunity,” Whitehead said in a statement. “I’ve dreamed of these moments for so long. I can’t wait to get after it and continue preparing for the NBA Draft. I want to thank Duke University, from my professors to my coaches and my teammates -- I appreciate your help with everything this year. I will forever be grateful for the Brotherhood!”

Projected to be a first-round pick, Whitehead averaged only 8.3 points while helping the Blue Devils go 27-9 and win the ACC championship. He missed the start of the season after fracturing a bone in his right foot last August, sat out a December game due to illness, then missed four games in January and February with a lower left leg injury.

His 42.9% accuracy on 3-point shots is certainly attractive to NBA scouts. He sank all three of his 3-point attempts while scoring 13 points in Duke’s 74-51 NCAA Tournament win over Oral Roberts on March 16. One month earlier, on Feb. 18, he hit 4 of 6 from behind the arc while scoring 14 points in Duke’s 77-55 at Syracuse.

Whitehead played in 28 games for the Blue Devils, starting seven times. He scored in double figures in 10 games.

“He’s battled an incredible amount of adversity with the injuries that have come his way,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “I’m so proud of how he stuck with it and has been a true team guy. Dariq is just scratching the surface on who he’s going to be. I’m right in his corner as he takes this next step and goes to the next chapter and declares for the NBA Draft, and I couldn’t be more excited for him and his family.”